Even good people sometimes think about doing bad things. It’s a common fact, with good nature almost always winning the battle…thankfully. Honest admittance from a polled group would certainly prove this true. After all; who hasn’t given thought to what life would be like as a successful bank robber or something along those lines? For those people, Overkill Software have put their video game crafting skills to work, creating Payday: The Heist. The aptly-titled game is an arcade first-person shooter which focuses on objective-based robbery attempts of varying types and sizes.
The best way to describe Payday: The Heist would be to liken it to Left 4 Dead. They’re very similar games in terms of design and gameplay, although there are notable differences such as the fact that one is a zombie shooter while the other revolves around high-stakes theft. Both titles beg gamers to get together with a few friends for arcade action, which is a bit different each time you play. Their focus is online, though single player is an option for those like me who sometimes prefer to go it alone. There are obvious similarities to be found, though I think Valve‘s series is the better and more polished of the two.
Instead of being a story-centric affair, this action-packed heist attempt is split-up into a series of interesting scenarios. Gamers can choose to play through them in any order, as a cohesive story is unfortunately missing from Payday: The Heist. All six planned attempts have a short story paragraph displayed during their loading screen, as well as some lead-in dialogue about the unique situation at hand. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all there is, as the game tends to focus on action as opposed to any sort of extravagant or well-crafted narrative. The situation at hand is briefly set-up, without much mention of the cast. Some gamers won’t mind this, while others will agree that this is a missed opportunity.
A good, team-based multiplayer experience is made much better by the inclusion of interesting characters. When gamers are asked to pick their avatar from a set group, their decision is usually based on identifiable assets and interesting back stories. The four criminals found within have interesting names and gruff voices, but they’re not well-developed. I never felt like any of the characters stood out, so my choice was based solely on which one had the best mask. All four wear clown masks which feature varied imagery, such as an American flag or a grimacing design. Adorned for obvious reasons, the masks also depict the lack of morality found within each of the digitized crew members.
The supplied backdrops and main objectives for each of the game’s six scenarios are all quite varied and different. These aren’t your minor shoplifting-style offenses. You’ll be completing tasks such as robbing banks, pulling weapons at a drug deal and stopping an armed drug convoy close to a slaughterhouse. An early morning break-in attempt at a well-guarded office building is the most high-tech of them all, surprisingly requiring stealth in order to remain undetected. Its jewel heist caper shows an escalation from some of the other attempts. It and the final stage are only available on hard, which may deter some gamers due to how difficult this game can be on normal.
Structured designs create the need for players to work as a team. Kamikaze actions are a risky venture considering the fact that a set amount of downs, or the revive clock running out, will lead to you being captured. Entering each area and securing it before the cops come is just as important as completing objectives, sometimes. Tied up hostages can become a powerful bargaining tool in an attempt to bring your friend back from a metallic box. Great teams will work together to set-up a perimeter around their objective, making sure that absolutely no special forces members, shield-toting riot guards or other good guys, come close. In order to succeed, good communication and a planned attacks, must all be put to good use. This is a hard game which will shoot up those who try to play it like a fast-paced twitch-shooter.
Depending on a player’s individual play style, their virtual criminal will level-up in different ways. There are three skill trees to take note of: Assault, Sharpshooter and Support. The former awards gamers who like to go in with their assault rifle blazing, while the latter two deal with those who like to assist and support their pals through meticulously placed shots and revive attempts. In-game accomplishments related to each tree will lead to completed challenges with varying goals. They may require you to take out a certain amount of foes with one weapon, complete a scenario a certain way or finish one on a set difficulty level. When leveling up through a respect-based system, utilized skills will receive bonus perks, weapons and upgrades. These can be equipped during pre-game set-up screens.
Robberies are certainly not a moral attempt at bettering one’s financial situation. However, when it’s displayed in films, television shows, it becomes a spectacle. Movies like Dog Day Afternoon and Heat come to my mind when I think of well-directed scenarios of this type. Though, in all of my years spent playing video games, I can only remember one series which attempted to bring interactivity to this form of criminal activity: Eidos‘ Kane and Lynch series. Despite the notable faults with both games’ campaigns, their multiplayer experiences were quite fun and competitive.
Going into Payday: The Heist, I was hoping for something a bit better and more refined than what is found in its competitor. What I ended up discovering was an above-average game which felt somewhat rough around the edges; missing its wow factor. This is a decent and interesting cooperative gaming experience, which serves friends who like to game together quite well. However, the experience feels somewhat stymied by a lack of great content, interesting story elements and completely unique designs.
Fans of twitch shooters with auto aim and other assists, may feel that Payday‘s aiming mechanics are cumbersome. It requires manual aiming and good accuracy for the best results possible. Otherwise, a lot of your shots may miss their intended target. Having played games like this before (on consoles,) I didn’t find much of an issue with this design choice. There was the odd time where it became a tad cumbersome, but it was never a terribly debilitating problem for me. The main issue on my end was its seemingly poor hit detection at close range, when hip fire was utilized. That felt somewhat unrealistic, becoming annoying on occasion.
In terms of presentation; Payday: The Heist is a solid effort. It looks a bit dated, but does the trick regardless, utilizing decent visuals and varied locations. More detail is certainly evident in outdoor environments which feature daylight hours, such as the city street stage. Shootouts found within are fast and full of action, always running pretty well. There did seem to be a bit of a delay between the game’s aiming and movement mechanics, with a created second of lag as a result.
The included voice acting is solid. All four of its main characters (Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains) are brought to virtual life with realistic, gruff portrayals. Bullets, explosions and hints at incoming police attacks, become the most prominent auditory elements within. It’s tough to find notable faults within any of the game’s audio elements.
To conclude, Payday: The Heist is a decent game which caters the most to dedicated groups containing four friends. It contains some interesting scenarios and chaotic action, giving gamers the opportunity to live out dream heists in a safe manner. Some more time in development could have resulted in a much more polished experience, eliminating some of the aforementioned issues. What is presented is worth checking out if you’re into this type of multiplayer-focused experience, though its twenty dollar price tag is a bit steep for those who don’t replay games often.
The crew is ready to go on with its plans. Are you in or out?
This review is based on a PS3 copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
Payday: The Heist feels like something is missing, which could be referred to as the wow factor. It's not a bad game by any means, but for $20, it would be nice if it packed more of a punch.